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WEARY LEADER OF THE LINE
Excerpts from Knox-News Sentinel article
By MIKE GRIFFITH
August 19, 2001- Take one look at Fred Weary and you know what he’s all about. Fierce eyes dart from within a chiseled 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame. He carries himself with a forward lean that warns of the shackled aggression that lies beneath. Ask anyone on the University of Tennessee football team and they will tell you Weary is the toughest, meanest offensive lineman with whom they have crossed paths. Ask Weary and he will contort his face into what’s supposed to be a smile. Weary shows his teeth for only a few seconds before a determined look reappears. It’s an expression that says Weary has unfinished business, and woe to those who stand in his way.
“Once Fred gets his hands on you, it’s over,” UT offensive line coach Mike Barry said. A USA Today All-American at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala., Weary spent his first two years at UT as a defensive lineman. But while watching line drills, Barry couldn’t help but notice the inordinate leverage Weary exhibited. Not only was he a natural, he was a coach’s dream. “Fred enjoys punishing himself in his workouts, and he pushes himself through that pain threshold,” Barry said. “I think that comes from his wrestling background.”
Weary embarked on a successful wrestling career when he was a 9th grader at Capitol Heights Junior High School in Montgomery. “I wrestled because I wanted to be athlete of the year,” Weary said. ”Wrestling practice started 6th period, so I’d do that and then go to basketball practice.” Weary also played football and ran track. “He was fantastic,” said Randy Mularz, a physical education teacher at Capitol Heights who coached Weary in football. “No one could block him, and in wrestling he was so big and strong the other kids called him “The Undertaker.’”
Bad to the bone
Lela Weary gets emotional when she talks about her son’s success. It seems too good to be true, “I think about it all the time,” she said. “If Freddie(Fred’s family nickname) hadn’t changed in junior high, he’d have been in jail, or something worse. I thank the good Lord he changed.”
“I was headed down a dead-end street,” said Weary, who faced expulsion from the public school system after his seventh-grade year for fighting and skipping class. “I’d gotten mixed in with the wrong crowd, running with older guys in the projects.” But then came along another guy, a little guy named Matthew. “When my little brother Matthew was born, that was my motivation to change,” Weary said. “He had to have someone to look up to.” Matthew spent the first 30 days of his life looking up to doctors in the intensive-care unit. He was born one month early with a collapsed lung, and he was not taking to his mother’s milk. A hole was drilled in his chest so doctors could feed air into his body. “We were worried that he wasn’t going to make it,” Lela said. “He was hooked up to tubes and I.V.s. Freddie went there when he was first born, and I know all that scared him.” Weary, 12 years old at the time, blamed himself. Had all the trouble he had gotten into at school stressed his mother’s pregnancy?
“I remember that was emotional time,” Weary said. “I had to take a long look at myself.” Weary’s prayers were answered when his little brother recovered. One year later, Weary got the first of many jobs he worked to help support his mother and baby brother, working weekends with an electrician. He took a job at a grocery mart when he was 16, working a 7-to-midnight shift after practices. “I didn’t think about it,” Weary said. “I got a job so I could get the things I wanted, and I had a little brother who also wanted things. It wasn’t a burden. I had my priorities and goals.”
“Fred is a wonderful young man who has his priorities in order,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. “Dedicated is an understatement. Tough is an understatement. He takes coaching and plays the game like it should be played.”